By Chris Liles
There’s something intoxicating about Washington, D.C. Maybe it’s the knowledge of the decisions that are being made there, maybe the knowledge that in any office building, in any restaurant or coffee shop, deals are being made that could influence the way the world works. It’s a place with the kind of power and influence that makes you think if you stop anyone who looks like they are in a hurry and ask them what their job is, it will sound infinitely cooler and more important than your own.
The majesty and prosperity on display is astounding. Massive buildings of marble, granite and limestone speak to the historical influence the United States has had on the world, and testify to the amount of money that flows through and around the Capitol (as does my $10 sandwich for lunch). Some of these buildings house offices of US Congressional members. These buildings are open to the public, assuming you can pass through a metal detector. In many ways, anyone has a right and even a responsibility to visit these offices and speak with members of Congress from their own district about policies and issues they believe are important.
Sitting on a bench during lunch one day, a man came up and asked several of us if we had any change so he could buy a bottle of water from a nearby restaurant. We told him we didn’t, and he made his way inside anyway, perhaps to see if someone else did. As he walked away I was left wondering what it must be like for him. What affect would it have on someone’s spirit or psyche to be surrounded by such power and such opulence, and yet have none of either? What would it be like to have the same right as I do to enter the Congressional offices but, let’s be real, probably not be allowed up the front steps, much less enter the premises.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” These words were first written because a burgeoning nation felt their rights were being oppressed. They believed people had God-given rights to life, liberty and happiness, and so they informed England of their intention to establish a nation where these rights would be paramount. Yet for many, these rights are a pipe dream. Their rights are restricted because of their race, gender, income or nationality. Wrapped up in this idea is the message of Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus’ teaching on caring for the least of these. We have a responsibility to care for the hungry and thirsty, the strangers and the naked, the sick and the captive. It’s not a responsibility of democrats or republicans. It’s the responsibility of Christians. We have a voice and an opportunity to speak out for the least of these and to demonstrate what it means to love and care for God’s children. Can we be moved enough to use them?
Chris Liles is a CBF leadership scholar studying at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He is the youth minister at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and recently attended CBF’s Advocacy in Action conference.